Sep 28, 2008
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Adult diapers on catwalk in Tokyo

Sep 28, 2008

TOKYO, Sept 28, 2008 (AFP) - In most ways it is a Tokyo fashion show much like any other, except for one minor detail -- the models proudly strutting their stuff are wearing white diapers over their black stockings.

Photo : AFP

Last week's show in rapidly ageing Japan introduced a collection of 170 adult diapers and smaller pads, with men and women walking and striking a pose to the tunes of 1980s British and American pop and rock music.

The moderator introduced the first design, "Relief," a "thin, lively type of underpant that can be pulled up easily."

"Shaped to fit elderly people's bodies and made of soft material that feels like putting on real underwear. Also uses anti-germ, deodorant sheets," she continued.

"Number two -- a 'Profit' slim-crotch with gathers that fit the buttocks to prevent leakage."

The audience of several hundred people flipped through the Diaper Catalogue 2008 that lists all products in the show for more detailed information.

The event, a new concept, was organised by Mutsukian, a private-sector group that offers information on tending to elderly people's personal needs, with the support of 70 volunteers as well as diaper makers.

Kiyoko Hamada, 58, who heads Mutsukian, said she "wanted people to take a look at diapers in a cheerful manner."

"They are necessary products and you don't need to feel ashamed," she said.

There are at least 400 kinds of adult diapers in Japan, a nation where more than one-fifth of the total population is 65 or older.

The show reminded the audience -- caregivers, nurses and those who were looking for diaper information for themselves -- of a simple fact: most people begin and end life in diapers.

"No matter how rich you are, or what high social status you have, most of you eventually need someone who takes care of what your body discharges," a lecturer said before the show started.

"It may be for a couple of days in hospital or a number of years in your bed," said Sachiko Hanari, who had taken care of five people -- her grandparents, father, mother-in-law and own mother -- over three decades.

"After all, elderly care is disposing of a variety of body wastes, even if some commentators on TV say it's about human dignity and so on," she said.

Some 4.34 million senior people needed care in their daily lives as of the end of January, a 50 percent jump from six years ago, according to provisional health ministry data.

Japan's market of disposable adult diapers is estimated at 110 billion yen (one billion dollars) a year, according to industry leader Unicharm.

Tomoko Tamakoshi, a 36-year-old housewife, said she came to the show for her father-in-law, 76, who had suffered a stroke and needs to be taken care of by his elderly wife.

"The elderly are taking care of the elderly. I live away from them but I'm hoping to learn what I can," she said.

Mutsukian, based in the western city of Kyoto, has also launched training and certification for "diaper fitters" capable of choosing the best fit for those who need them.

A volunteer at the show, Hiroko Sano, 55, who also runs care products company Shes Kobo, tried urinating into a diaper, a requirement for someone seeking to be a fitter.

She relieved herself when she was stuck in a traffic jam.

"It wasn't so comfortable," she said. "But who cares? Nobody's looking.

"It will be your turn tomorrow."by Miwa Suzuki

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